But while the security establishment has generally praised these companies for providing them useful technology, not everyone is embracing this relationship between Big Tech and the intelligence community. At least in the case of Google, many disgruntled employees are frustrated that the company is slowly being dragged into what they consider to be “the business of war.”
As argued by Tim Johnson of McClatchyDC.com, “In some ways, the evolution of companies born to disrupt the status quo into business giants with a broad array of clients, including the security establishment, is a result of the profits to be made doing business with the federal government.” (Related: Google’s military robot army will soon be ready for a terminator-like assault on humanity.)
Johnson goes on to discuss a Google surveillance engine that uses artificial intelligence to sift through enormous amounts of video footage collected by tactical drones to produce what it refers to as “actionable intelligence and insights at speed.” Testing of this technology is currently being conducted in various locations in Africa and the Middle East. Even though the drone footage has been used successfully in the past to kill members of the Islamic State, roughly 4,000 of Google’s 88,000 employees have already signed a petition demanding that the project be scrapped on the grounds that it would “irreparably damage Google’s brand.”
The petition added: “Building this technology to assist the U.S. government in military surveillance – and potentially lethal outcomes – is not acceptable.” (Related: Google employees are now freaking out over a Pentagon AI “terminator” project.)
Still, others would argue that the relationship between Tech Giants like Google and the national security community is actually a good thing, even if profit is a significant motivating factor. The world is not a safe place, especially after eight years under the so-called leadership of a commander-in-chief that believed more heavily in appeasement than he did in the notion of peace through strength. This mentality has put countless American lives at risk, and has allowed radical terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS to expand. As such, some would say that the “business of war” is acceptable if it means keeping the American people safe.
Google’s former chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, spoke before a House panel back in April and explained that Google should continue to move forward with the controversial project, even if there is still work that needs to be done regarding how the company deploys artificial intelligence for defensive, and perhaps offensive, purposes.
Schmidt, who also serves as chair of the Defense Innovation Board, an advisory group to the secretary of defense, said that the Pentagon “must… create a foundation for similar projects to flourish.”
As far as Amazon is concerned, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant currently works with the CIA to run a secret “cloud” that allows the agency to distribute sensitive information to other parts of the intelligence community. Amazon is also being considered to build a massive secure cloud for the Department of Defense, along with other companies like Google, Microsoft, and more traditional contractors like General Dynamics. This is no small project, either – John Weiler, managing director of a governmental technology think tank known as the IT Acquisition Advisory Council, described it as “the world’s largest IT procurement ever,” adding, “You show me some other IT contract for $10 billion.”
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